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Durian.

‘Straits School’, early 19th century.

Inscribed l.r.: doorian, numbered eighty-five, N94 and 96, watercolour and gum arabic on laid paper.

32.7 x 23 cm.; 12 ¾ x 9 inches.

The durian, with its spiny outer shell and moist, pungent flesh can weigh up to seven pounds. These large fruits grow on trees, have a short period of ripeness and their cultivation is difficult.

The durian is famously not allowed on public transport in Singapore on account of its unpleasant smell.

This work is from a group of nineteen watercolours of South-East Asian fruit and vegetables. Please note that the collection is being sold as a group and not individually.

This group of nineteen distinctive depictions of fruit and vegetables from South-East Asia are inscribed with titles in Indian English (possibly in Romanised Hindi) and drawn on European laid paper which is variously watermarked. There are three different numbering systems on the sheets. Many of the fruit and vegetables, such as the durian, are more commonly found in South-East Asia rather than on the Indian subcontinent, suggesting that it is possible that the drawings may have been made for a European patron in South-East Asia. Stylistically the drawings have many of the characteristics of the ‘Straits School’, a hybrid Indo-Chinese style.

The accumulation of natural history drawings by officials of the British East India Company gave rise to the term ‘Company School’, now out of favour, which has been used to describe the work of Indian or Chinese artists for British patrons. The distinctive style is a result of a fusion of two artistic traditions, the European with its desire for realism and the Asian taste for a more stylised approach. The work of Chinese artists is rarer than that of Indian artists and tends to be a little later in date.

British patrons commissioned local artists to draw the flora and fauna of India and other areas of South-East Asia. Such work is typically annotated with botanical notes in native script, romanised versions of native descriptions, Latin and with reference to the Linnaean system of classification, created by Carl Linnaeus (1707-78).

The eighteenth and early nineteenth century saw an enormous rise of interest in Europe in the study of natural history by both scientists and amateurs. A knowledge of the subject was considered to be an important part of a liberal education and many people studied ‘natural philosophy’ and the various branches of natural history. Accurate drawings were vital tools in classification as well as a reminder of the excited reaction to new discoveries being made all over the known world.

The collecting of specimens was the basis of most natural history drawings, plants were pressed and dried and the drawings recorded the specimen in its living shape and colours.

This group of fruit and vegetables are found in various parts of South-East Asia. Some are common others are less well known.

The collection is presented mounted in a hand-made solander box.

Price on application



By appointment and at fairs

The BADA Standard

  • Since 1918, BADA has been the leading association for the antiques and fine art trade
  • Members are elected for their knowledge, integrity and quality of stock
  • Our clients are protected by BADA’s code of conduct
  • Our dealers’ membership is reviewed and renewed annually
  • Bada.org is a non-profit site: clients deal directly with members and they pay no hidden fees
Click here for more information on the BADA Standard